Korea–Japan relations through thick description: revisiting the national identity formation process

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Existing theories of international relations have failed to interpret the hostile relations between Korea and Japan due to their Cartesian assumptions about the nature of national sovereignty and identity. Such theories view the hostilities between the two states as the result of incorrect policies or unhealthy interactions between domestic norms and foreign policies, because they believe that there are few negative structural elements between Japan and Korea. This study suggests an alternative explanation by utilising the worldview of East Asian medicine. By interpreting the formation of the Japanese and Korean national identities from the late nineteenth century and by viewing the hostility between the two states not as evidence of ‘malfunctioning’ inter-state relations but as a core element of their national identities, this study proposes an alternative understanding of ‘problem-solving’ with respect to Korea–Japan relations that is directed towards healing their relations with a long-term perspective.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThird World Quarterly
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development


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